There are going to be a lot of interesting roster battles for the Falcons over the summer—assuming we get some form of training camp, that is. One of the most important ones will be at swing tackle, where Atlanta let go of veteran Ty Sambrailo but brought in several veteran options in Justin McCray, John Wetzel, and former UDFA Matt Gono. The Falcons also signed a trio of UDFAs to add to the mix.
Who will emerge victorious from this battle royale? Let’s take a look at each of the contenders.
Third-year player Matt Gono has been a long-term project at tackle for the Falcons, and finally found his way onto the field in 2019. After Kaleb McGary’s procedure during the preseason, it was expected that Gono would be the starter heading into the season. An unfortunate injury took him out of the lineup before Week 1, and Gono only saw the field for a handful of snaps in 5 games as a reserve. Still, Gono was the most promising of the swing tackle options last season and should have a leg up on the competition in 2020.
Career journeyman John Wetzel has found a way to hang around the NFL for a long time due to his versatility and exceptional size. He began his career with the Raiders as a UDFA and eventually found his way into a starting job at LT with the Cardinals in 2016 and 2017, before suffering a season-ending injury in 2018. He joined the Falcons in 2019 and has been the last man on the roster ever since. His best assets are his size and experience, but he’s already been beaten out by Gono in the past. It’s also important to note that Wetzel is now listed as a guard on the Falcons’ official roster, despite primarily playing tackle.
Former UDFA Justin McCray got his start with the Titans, before bouncing around for several years. He eventually wound up with the Packers, where he carved out a job as a reserve RT in 2017 and started 8 games. In 2018, McCray was moved to RG, where he seemed more comfortable, and that comfort continued in 2019 with the Browns. McCray has the versatility to play either guard or tackle, but he’s probably a better fit at guard—which is where the Falcons officially have him listed.
A local prospect who played at Georgia State, Atkinson was a two-time All-Conference selection at LT. He’s very athletic due to his history as a TE and has good size and length at 6’5, 295. Atkinson is a long shot to make the roster due to the presence of so many veterans, but he’s got a very good chance to wind up on an expanded practice squad.
The first thing that stands out about Dill is his size: he’s big at 6’7, 295, and moves surprisingly well too. Dill spent time at TE in his past, and also played both RT and LT for Memphis with the vast majority of his snaps coming on the right. Dill only has one year as a starter to his name, but his measurables make him an intriguing practice squad candidate.
Another OT prospect with tremendous size, Buffalo’s Evin Ksiezarczyk checks in at 6’6, 310. He was an All-MAC first-team selection at left tackle in 2019, and second-team selection in 2018. Ksiezarczyk has an impressive 39 starts to his name, all on the left side, and has a good shot to compete for a practice squad spot.
The obvious choice is Matt Gono, whom the Falcons have been developing to be their swing tackle for the past few years. Gono was extremely close to a starting job at RT to open the season, and I have feeling he would’ve impressed us if given the chance. I think he’ll continue to impress in training camp and beat out the veteran and UDFA competition to seize control of the swing tackle job in 2020.
There’s certainly a chance for one of the veterans in John Wetzel or Justin McCray to pull off an upset, but both are now listed as guards on the official depth chart. The UDFA competition isn’t all that terrifying in terms of making the final roster, but there’s certainly some quality talent there. I feel like Hunter Atkinson and Evin Ksiezarczyk probably have the leg up over Scottie Dill to make the practice squad, but that will be a battle worth monitoring.
Who do you think will end up as Atlanta’s swing tackle in 2020? Will any of the UDFAs make a splash during training camp?